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Diabetes: Type-2 Risk Factors and Warning Signs

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KEY POINTS

  • Having diabetes means that there is too much glucose (sugar) in your child’s blood. Diabetes can damage small blood vessels and nerves, causing problems in the eyes, heart, brain, kidneys, skin, and feet. Having diabetes increases your child’s risk for life-threatening problems.
  • Type 2 diabetes may not cause symptoms for months or years. That’s why it’s important for your child to have regular checkups. When diabetes does start to cause symptoms, they may include feeling unusually thirsty, urinating a lot, slow healing of wounds or sores, and other symptoms.
  • Type 2 diabetes can often be prevented by controlling risk factors. Keep your child’s weight under control. Make sure that your child stays physically active as advised by your child’s provider. Talk to your child about the risks of smoking, drinking alcohol, and using drugs.

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What is diabetes?

Having diabetes means that there is too much glucose (sugar) in your child’s blood. The body breaks down some of the foods your child eats into glucose. The blood carries the glucose to the cells of the body. Your child needs some glucose in his cells for energy, but too much glucose in the blood is not good for your child’s health.

Diabetes is caused by a problem with the way the body makes or uses insulin. Insulin is made by the pancreas, which is an organ in the upper belly. Your child’s body uses insulin to help move glucose from the blood into the cells. When your child does not have enough insulin, or has trouble using the insulin the body makes, glucose cannot get into the cells and builds up in your child’s blood.

The 2 main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

  • Type 1 diabetes happens when the pancreas stops making insulin. It is more common in children, teens, and young adults than type 2 diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes happens when the body gradually loses its ability to use its own insulin or stops making enough insulin. It can start in childhood.

Healthcare providers don’t know how to prevent type 1 diabetes. However, type 2 diabetes, which is much more common than type 1, can often be prevented or delayed by controlling risk factors.

What are the risk factors for type 2 diabetes?

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes that you cannot control include:

  • A family history of diabetes
  • Being of Alaska Native, American Indian, African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, or Pacific Islander descent
  • Gestational diabetes during pregnancy
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormone problem that affects a woman’s ovaries
  • Being born premature

Risk factors that you may be able to control include:

  • Being overweight
  • Eating a high calorie or high fat diet
  • Getting little or no physical activity
  • Prediabetes, which is when your child’s blood glucose is higher than normal, but not quite high enough to be called diabetes

What are the warning signs of diabetes?

One of the problems with type 2 diabetes is that it may not cause symptoms for months or years. That’s why it’s important to have regular checkups. When diabetes does start to cause symptoms, they may include:

  • Feeling unusually thirsty
  • Urinating a lot
  • Unexpected weight gain or weight loss
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Skin infections
  • Slow healing of wounds or sores
  • Blurry vision
  • Repeated yeast infections of the vagina

Why is it important to prevent and treat diabetes?

Untreated diabetes can cause serious problems. Diabetes can damage small blood vessels and nerves, causing problems in the eyes, heart, brain, kidneys, skin, and feet. Having diabetes increases your risk for your child’s risk for life-threatening problems.

How can I help my child?

  • Keep your child’s weight under control, particularly if you have a family history of diabetes. If your child is overweight, make sure your healthcare provider checks his blood glucose every year.
  • Make sure your child has regular medical checkups as often as recommended. Don't wait for serious problems before seeing your child’s healthcare provider.
  • Watch for the warning signs of diabetes.
  • Make sure that your child eats a variety of healthy foods with lots of fruits, vegetables, fiber, and lean protein. Include healthy fats such as small servings of nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, and fish oil. Avoid the white foods such as white flour products, white bread, biscuits, pancakes, white potatoes, and white rice. Help your child eat more whole grains such as whole wheat flour, bran, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice. You may want to work with a dietitian to set up a prescribed meal plan that meets your child’s needs.
  • Make sure that your child stays physically active as advised by your child’s provider. Help your child to limit sitting time.
  • Children with diabetes are faced with the same pressures as other kids. They may be curious about smoking, drinking alcohol, or using drugs. Smoking speeds up damage to the heart and blood vessels. Alcohol and drugs can affect blood glucose and cause nerve damage over time. Talk to your child about the risks of smoking, drinking alcohol, and using drugs.
Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2019-06-06
Last reviewed: 2019-05-22
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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